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A New Approach To Refugees: Pay Them To Go Home

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For refugees in Austria who choose to voluntarily go back to their countries of origin, a one-way trip to the Vienna International Airport marks the end of their journey in Europe. Hans Punz/AP hide caption

toggle caption Hans Punz/AP

Our series, “Take A Number,” is exploring problems around the world — and the people who are trying to solve them — through the lens of a single number.

158,000. That’s roughly how many refugees are stuck in limbo in Europe right now.

Many of them got to Europe in late 2015, when the refugee crisis reached its peak, and have been waiting since then to see if they’ll be formally accepted into the European Union. To cut down on the wait time and economic impact of this massive influx, some countries and nonprofits in Europe have embraced a new idea — pay refugees to go back to the countries they left in the first place.

Mahmoud Abdelwahab is one of the people who has been waiting. He’s 25, and originally from Mosul, Iraq. In early 2016, he quit his job as a cook and came to Europe, ending up in

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